I recently had a conversation with a young adult about joy. He told me he didn’t think there was any such thing. He felt that no one could really experience and possess true joy. He expressed his disappointments in his family, his chosen career path, and his life that he admittedly was simply living day-by-day. And, most of his friends felt the same way.
Christ-followers have a story to tell. Joy is much more than a feeling or an emotion; it’s a deep understanding of contentment and peace.
Young adults are seeking a lot from life. They are looking for success. They are looking for relationships. They are looking for answers to difficult questions. In the middle of all the searching, many young adults have never seen what true joy looks like in a life that is deeply seeking Christ.
As we talk about the joy present in our lives as Christ-followers, here are three thoughts to share with young adults:
1. Joy is not a feeling.
In a culture that constantly seeks instant gratification, joy may seem like a far-fetched concept. People disappoint us. Plans don’t work out the way we expected. Life seems to be headed in a direction that isn’t what we planned. And, in the middle of it all, many young adults blame God for the disappointment.
However, Jesus said, “I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (John 15:11, CSB).
Despite the circumstances that life may bring, a relationship with Jesus allows us to find hope in the middle of chaos and disappointment. Joy comes from seeking God’s heart and reminding ourselves of His promises.
2. Joy results in peace and contentment.
Individuals who experience deep joy also seem to gain peace and contentment that helps them navigate hard circumstances. From the young man who just found out he has been diagnosed with cancer to the young woman who got turned down for her dream job, those who understand true joy are content with where they are. They also allow God to shape them into the person He has called them to be – despite any bad news.
Can disappointment accompany this perspective? Absolutely! However, allowing joy to produce contentment will remove the focus from the circumstances and place the emphasis back to being a deeply devoted Christ-follower.
“So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10, CSB).
3. Joy is modeled by those who deeply follow Jesus.
There is something different about someone who understands joy! As young adult ministry leaders, our lives are reflections of what we truly believe about God. Our lives also show how we interact with Him and His word. If our lives are not reflecting the joy that comes through deeply following Christ, how can we ever expect the young adults to understand true joy?
When young adult ministry leaders display joy, the questions that come about more often are, “How do I get there?” The recognition that “you seem different” comes through conversations. The desire to “have what she has” is a part of a young adult’s desires when walking through life’s circumstances.
People all around us are looking for something. Many times, it’s the empty hope and promises they have believed for most of their lives. However, what would it look like if a generation of young adults truly began to understand that true joy comes through a deeply committed life to following Jesus?
My prayer is that my new friend will begin to see the joy in my life and in the lives of others who love and follow Jesus.
Mark Whitt is a collegiate minister with Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Connect with Mark via Twitter.